File servers come in many forms, from dedicated computer systems like Apple’s Xserve, which has a base sticker price of $2,999, to NAS (Network Attached Storage) hard-drive-based systems, which can be found for as little as $49 (you supply the hard drives). But while buying a preconfigured solution is always an option, it’s not always the best option.
If you would like to have a file server on your network, so you can share files, music, videos, and other data with other Macs in the house or office, here is a simple step-by-step guide that will let you repurpose an older Mac. You can turn it into a file server that can be a backup destination for all of your Macs, as well as allow you to share files. You can also use this same file server to share printers, serve as a network router, or share other attached peripherals, although we won’t go into that here. We will concentrate on turning that old Mac into a dedicated file server.
What You Need
- OS X 10.5.x. I chose to use Leopard as the OS because it already incorporates the software necessary for file sharing. This will make installing and configuring the server as easy as setting up a desktop Mac.
- An older Mac. I’m using a PowerMac G5, but other good choices include any of the PowerMac G4s, iMacs, and Mac minis. The key is that the Mac must be able to run OS X 10.5.x and support additional hard drives. They can either be external hard drives connected via FireWire, or for desktop Macs, internal hard drives.
- Large hard drive(s). The size and number of drives is dependent on your particular needs, but my advice is not to scrimp here. You can find 1 TB drives for well under $100, and you’ll fill them up faster than you think you will.